The dirty truth about men's offices
Men's offices are dirtier than women's and contain significantly higher numbers of bacteria, a study has found.
Much of the reason is probably down to hygiene, say the US researchers - who point out that men are "commonly perceived to have a more slovenly nature".
Scientists took 450 swab samples from 90 offices occupied by men and women in New York, San Francisco and Tucson, Arizona. In total they identified more than 500 types of bacteria, most of which originated from human skin, noses, ears, and "intestinal cavities".
Chairs and telephones had some of the highest concentrations of bugs, with lower numbers on desktops, keyboards, and computer mice.
San Francisco appeared to have cleaner offices than the other two American cities, for reasons that remained unknown. But the researchers, led by Dr Scott Kelly, from San Diego State University in California, were clear about why greater numbers of bacteria were found in men's offices.
They wrote in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE: "Surfaces in offices inhabited by men were consistently more contaminated than those of offices inhabited by women.
"While the differences among cities do not seem readily interpretable, the differences between contamination levels in the offices of men and women may be explained by differences in hygiene. Men are known to wash their hands and brush their teeth less frequently than women, and are commonly perceived to have a more slovenly nature."
The team acknowledged that men may have one excuse for working in dirtier offices than their female colleagues - their body size. "Since men are, on average, larger than women, they have a correspondingly greater skin surface area, as well as nasal and oral cavities and, therefore, a proportionally greater surface area for bacterial colonisation," the researchers pointed out.
"Thus, in addition to being less hygienic, it is possible that men may also shed more bacteria into their surrounding environment."
Dr Kelley said: "Humans are spending an increasing amount of time indoors, yet we know little about the diversity of bacteria and viruses where we live, work and play. This study provides detailed baseline information about the rich bacterial communities in typical office settings and insight into the sources of these organisms."